México came within minutes of a place in the Quarter Finals and causing a huge upset in Forteleza but were undone by a controversial Netherlands winner. Giovani dos Santos had fired El Tri into a second half lead and in the searing heat it looked as though México were to hold on for a famous victory. However, in the 88th minute, slack defending left Wesley Sneijder in space to smash in an equaliser and in injury time, Arjen Robben teased a challenge out of Rafa Marquez and ensured that his leg made just enough contact to throw himself to the ground. The referee pointed to the spot and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar made no mistake and sent Guillermo Ochoa the wrong way. El Piojo was furious with the decision but perhaps México should not have been in the position and now this is filed under yet another valiant failure for El Tri.
For three quarters of the match it was difficult to see which side were one of the favourites to win the World Cup as México defended superbly but provided a threat on the break.
The set back of missing Vazquez in the middle was not felt, with Carlos Salcido ably fitting in and even the injury to Hector Moreno, with a broken tibia, was dealt with by Diego Reyes’ introduction.
After a first half shaded by Miguel Herrera’s side, Giovani dos Santos gave México the lead when he escaped a challenge and beat Cillessen from 25 yards.
With time running down, México appeared to run out of steam and as Herrera made his changes looking more to contain than press Holland, the pressure grew.
Finally with two minutes of normal time remaining a corner was cleared only to the edge of the box and Wesley Sneijder found himself in acres of space to rifle the ball into the bottom corner.
With extra time looming, and already deep into stoppage time, the ever dangerous Arjen Robben danced his way into the box and when Rafa Marquez left his foot dangling in a half-hearted challenge, Robben needed no invitation to go to ground. The theatrical nature of the fall is something that Robben has made an art-form of and once again it proved critical. Klass-Jan Huntelaar scored the resulting penalty and it was all over for another four years for México.
Controversially, Robben has since said, “I must apologize. The one [at the end] was a penalty, but the other one was a dive in the first half. I shouldn’t be doing that.”
Whether it was or it wasn’t, the fact remains that México came up just short when it counted and perhaps a better experienced side would have been able to see out the victory. This didn’t stop Miguel Herrera from voicing his obvious disgust with the refereeing. “The reason [we are eliminated] was the referee, the man with the whistle,” El Piojo raged. “He left us outside the next stage of the World Cup.“
Like so many times before the phrase that is once again used for México’s brave display was “Play like never before and lose like always.”
México 1 – 2 Netherlands